David Alan Fulton, 59, had a history of mental health issues and a collection of BB guns, according to friends who showed up to check on him during yesterday's standoff at an apartment complex on Sutter Road in McKinleyville. The friends, according to Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey, had no idea that it was Fulton who was barricaded in his apartment and shooting at police cars with a real rifle.
The standoff began as a dispute between Fulton and his landlord, according to Downey's statements at this morning's press conference. After the landlord towed Fulton's car, he allegedly began shooting at the manager's office in the center of the apartment complex. The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene at around 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 17. According to Downey, several rounds of active gunfire hit their patrol cars, leaving a total of three bullet holes. The sheriff's office issued a reverse 911 call advising residents of the complex to stay in place, and maintained a perimeter around the scene. Multiple law enforcement agencies showed up to support sheriff's office personnel, including the Arcata, Fortuna and Eureka police departments, the California Highway Patrol, the drug task force, Cal Fire, and 10 rangers with the National Park Service, who were en route to a training at the time of the incident. The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office also donated personnel and equipment, with Sheriff Tom Allman personally escorting a Lenco Bearcat, an armored personnel carrier, to the scene. The Bearcat was later used to extricate around a dozen people from the complex.
As the day wore on, Downey said that there seemed to be hope for a positive resolution. Early on, the HCSO had coordinated with Fulton's phone provider to cut off contact with anyone but crisis negotiators. The agency became aware that Fulton's longtime girlfriend was also in the apartment. She had, Downey said, a "calming effect" on Fulton and did not seem to be in the apartment as a hostage. But around 7 p.m. dialogue ended. Fulton stopped answering his phone. The negotiators began addressing him using a P.A. system, but the only response came in the form of a call from Fulton to 911, stating that he and his girlfriend would not come out.
At around 1 a.m. more shots were fired toward officers, and Fulton's girlfriend yelled that they would not come out. Officers made the decision to send in a device that emitted light and sound through one of the windows at about 1:15 a.m. This evidently prompted the woman to exit the apartment, at about 1:25 a.m. Downey said she seemed "relieved" to be out. More gunfire was heard inside the apartment, and then smoke came billowing out. Fulton allegedly started several fires inside the apartment before the HCSO could turn off the gas.
At around 2 a.m., Fulton allegedly exited the apartment and began shooting at officers. They returned fire, and Fulton fell and lay prone on the stairwell. He did not respond to requests that he show his hands. Deputies approached Fulton, handcuffed and brought him downstairs to the grass. He was determined to be deceased at 2:05 a.m.
Downey said that the officers involved in the shooting are currently on administrative leave, and personnel from Humboldt State University Police Department are aiding in the investigation. HCSO cannot yet release the caliber of the weapon, although Downey was able to confirm that it was a non-assault-type rifle. No charges have been filed against Fulton's girlfriend, and several aid agencies have stepped up to provide shelter for complex residents who were displaced by the incident. Downey offered his thanks to all of the law enforcement agencies and nearby businesses who aided the sheriff's office during the standoff.